Shapereader at the Hippolyte Gallery, Helsinki

Research output: Artistic and non-textual formExhibitionSolo art productionpeer-review


Shapereader is a community-specific tactile conlang (constructed language). It was initially designed for the purposes of visually impaired subjects in regards to tactile textual production. It consists of an expanding repertoire of free-floating tactile ideograms (tactigrams) intended to provide haptic equivalents for all the semantic features, the conceptual functions and textual attributes of a story. Its design prioritizes simplicity and ease of memorization and addresses all users regardless of their nationality, language, educational level, or subsistence under any visual handicap. By circumventing the verbo-voco-visual apparatus, it transposes semantic and syntactical structure cognizance to the reader’s fingertips. Shapereader promotes an embodied textual experience. Shapereader was generously funded by Koneen Säätiö in 2013 and was conceptualized and designed by Ilan Manouach.

For the Hippolyte show I introduced the Shapereader Light Booth an implementation of the Shapereader tactile language. The intertwining of vision and tactility has inspired several aesthetic analyses: from Johann Herder’s theory of feeling (Gefühl) in architecture and sculpture to Alois Riegl’s conceptualisation of a ‘tactile look’ in ancient Egyptian art, and from Michael Taussig’s notion of ‘optical tactility’, to Merleau-Ponty’s concept of vision as a ‘palpation’ with the eyes. The Light Booth is presented as an idiosyncratic luminous dictionary of discrete shapes, that can function as either nouns, verbs or modifiers. Not unlike other constructed languages, the arbitrariness of a limited list of signifiers highlights the working of a highly speculatively use of a tactile language that operates approximately through ambiguous metaphors.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
MoE publication typeF1 Published independent work of art
EventPhotographic Gallery Hippolyte: Shapereader - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 3 Nov 201719 Nov 2017


  • disability art
  • conceptual comics

Field of art

  • Design


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